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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rediscovering Her Roots

I adopted my daughter from Russia the day after her 11th birthday. At age 22, she has now lived half her life with me in America. Although she can understand some Russian, her ability to speak her native language is quite limited.

Because she was older when she was placed in an orphanage, she has memories of life with her birth family, including siblings, cousins, aunts and grandparents. She also has many questions. I once asked whether she wanted to search for her birth parents (there are groups that work with investigators in Russia to search for birth families), but she wasn't interested.

Then last year she said she would like to do a birth family search. So I contacted a woman with a good record of finding birth families in Russia, in conjunction with a man 'on the ground' in Russia. We provided the requested information, my daughter wrote a letter to her birth mother, and the search began. Through the efforts of the brother of the director of the last orphanage in which she stayed (he is a police officer), we were able to get the address of the birth father. But no trace of the birth mother was found. She had moved and nobody knew where she was. The investigator in Russia also gathered some information about the birth father, who reportedly was still in and out of jail. But the search for the birth mother hit a dead end. 

Then a few weeks ago, my daughter was watching an episode of 'Millionaire Matchmaker.' The matchmaker herself was adopted and did a search for her birth mother. That prompted my daughter to start her own search, beginning with Facebook. And amazingly, she found her! The name, city and birth date all matched. My daughter used an online translating program to write a brief note in Russian, and a couple of days later, she got a response.

She and her birth mother have chatted via Facebook nearly every day since then, although the 12-hour time difference makes contact difficult. The birth mother speaks no English, but my daughter's online translator helps the communication. 

My daughter is finally getting answers to some long-held questions about her past, updates on various family members (several of which have died of heart disease, which apparently runs in the family) and at least a partial explanation of a variety of things her parents did that resulted in my daughter being placed in an orphanage. She also has learned that one of her great-grandparents was Polish.

The birth mother, according to my daughter, refers to me as my daughter's mom, so she is not attempting to reclaim that role. My daughter refers to her birth mother by her name; she calls me 'Mom." My daughter is showing great maturity in handling this sudden and uncomfortable situation. When the birth mother asked whether my daughter hates her, my daughter's response was that no, she doesn't hate her. After years of therapy and the act of growing up, she forgives her birth mother but will not forget what she did. 

I also have become Facebook friends with the birth mother. We chat via Facebook on occasion, but mostly about our dogs. But my daughter shares with me her conversations with her birth mother, at one point asking whether her talking to her birth mother upset me. It doesn't upset me at all. I am happy she is getting answers to her questions and that my daughter hopes to become friends with the woman who gave birth to her. My daughter's love and loyalty are with me. I just don't want her to be hurt again. Birth mother has said she doesn't want to lose my daughter again. The birth father has had little to say, and my daughter has shown little interest in communicating with him. This is a situation that will take considerable time to play out.

So this year is ending with a new beginning for several people on both sides of the globe. I hope my daughter and her birth mother find comfort in their budding friendship. It also has prompted my daughter and me to work on improving our skills in Russian, so we can better communicate with someone who appears to have finally got her life together and wants to get to know the daughter she rejected years ago.